Lincoln’s paving the way to a bike friendly Nebraska

Lincoln offers 128 connected miles of paved and crushed limestone trails around the area.

Lincoln offers 128 connected miles of paved and crushed limestone trails around the area.

Story and photo by Robert Vencil, NewsNetNebraska

Nebraska ranked 41st in bicycle friendliness according to The League of American Bicyclists.  The ranking represents the entire state, but many in Lincoln feel it’s a misrepresentation of their city.

“I think Lincoln does an incredible job,” said Damon Hershey, an employee of Cycle Works in Lincoln, “A lot goes into those rankings.”

States were ranked on a scale of 1-5 in categories of legislation and enforcement, polices and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning.  With one being the low, Nebraska scored ones in every category except for legislation and enforcement and education and encouragement.  The state scored twos in these categories.

“Forty-one seems pretty low,” said Jon Feder, as senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “I’ve found a very vibrant bike community in Lincoln and the trails are second to none.”

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recently ranked Lincoln fifth in the nation in overall trail millage, landscape and maintenance.

The Great Plains Trails Network, GPTN, is the governing body that oversees the 128 miles of trails in the Lincoln area. The board helps promote cycling in the community and plans construction of future trails.  The GPTN is fundraising to build an N Street Link that would connect the Jamaica North Trail to the Antelope Valley Trail and provide a trail through downtown with access to the Haymarket.

“I’ve been in Lincoln for three years and it’s great to discover new trails every time I ride,” Feder said.

Lincoln has the most trail mileage of any city in Nebraska.  The Omaha Metro is second with 105 miles and Grand Island third with 30 miles.  The trails provide a safe alternative for bicyclists instead of riding in the streets, but Hershey doesn’t see that as a problem.

“I don’t buy into the car vs. bike debate,” Hershey said, “More people are becoming aware of cyclists as many of them bike themselves.”

Hershey has seen the number of bicyclists grow over the past few years in all age groups and he said people are beginning to acknowledge bicyclists instead of being an annoyance.

Bicyclists have always bothered Anthony Kraber, a life-long citizen of Lincoln, but he has noticed a change recently.  “I’m seeing more cyclists, but they are less of an issue,” he said, “They seem to flow with traffic better than they used to.”

As the numbers of bicyclists continues to grow, so does the awareness of bicyclists.  Cycle Works puts on workshops around the year that teach cycling safety to proper helmet fitting.  The events are run by employees of Cycle Works and League Cycling Instructors, who are accredited by the League of American Bicyclists.  With the help of the Lancaster Health Endowment, Lincoln has seen its number of League Cycling Instructors grow from 2 to 20 over the past year.

The instructors hold events from weekend long trips to simple bike rodeos, all in an effort to teach proper riding techniques and safety.  Feder believes that an informed public is one of the biggest factors when it comes to having a bike friendly community.

“It takes effort from both sides to mend the relationship,” Feder said.

As the bicycling community continues to grow, Lincoln could start seeing growth beyond the bicycling community.

Hershey said bicycle friendly cities are impacting people’s decisions on where to live.  People consider a city’s bicycle friendliness when it comes to deciding where to live, to move a business or where to go to college.

“The community definitely factored into me staying in Lincoln,” Feder said, “I haven’t found a place much better than here.”

 

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